Dancing Through a Pandemic
As Sabetha Mumm’s dance students practice their routines in their taped off socially distanced boxes and masks, complaining about how difficult it is to breathe, Sabetha’s response is simple.
“It’s good cardio training. Imagine how much stronger of an athlete you’ll be when everything’s back to normal. A mask is better than not dancing at all.”
In light of COVID-19, the owner of Johnston’s Dance Vision has done everything in her power to keep her studio open and her students engaged in a time when other activities stopped completely. This effort has included moving all 89 classes to being online, then bringing small groups of students back and doubling her payroll to ensure both students in the physical classroom and students at home are interacting with instructors. Though it was a lot of hard work to keep it all going, it was more than worth it.
Sabetha understands all too well the power of the arts in people’s lives and the importance of pursuing your passions. According to her parents, she was born dancing. As the daughter of an Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitar playing father and a concert violinist mother, music has always had a place in Sabetha’s life and encouraged her to pursue her true passion, even after straying from it for a bit.
Though dancing was a major part of her life, there was a point where Sabetha didn’t see a future with it. Throughout high school, she found a love for debate and was encouraged to return to her birthplace of Iowa City to attend the University of Iowa as a pre-law major, but came to miss the piece of her life that had been there since she could remember. She signed up for a few dance classes and knew that’s what she wanted to do and immediately switched her major.
“Sometimes I believe you’re meant to do something, I guess because I was doing it from before I had memories and I kept at it,” Sabetha said. “I grew up with dance teachers that really instilled the love of the art form and the craft with me. This is what I love, this is my passion.”
After graduating with her degree in dance and moving to Des Moines, her dream of sharing and inspiring this passion in her new community’s youth the way her instructors had growing up only grew. After shadowing a few local business owners, conducting market research and receiving a loan from the Small Business Associaion (SBA), her dream came to life with the 2003 opening of Dance Vision in a small bay near Merle Hay.
Having started with just 50 students with her as the sole teacher before moving to a new location that was quickly outgrown and finally building her very own studio in it’s current location with help from another SBA loan, Dance Vision today has 500 students between the ages of 2 and 18 along with 20 instructors, a close-knit group which has come to call themselves the “DV Fam.”
Coined by a parent in a social media post, Sabetha claims this family is what kept the studio going throughout the pandemic. As other local dance studios lost up to 50% of their clientele, Dance Vision only lost 8% of their students. The parents and teachers that she considers friends banded together to ensure their children’s ability to continue dancing.
Because of this dedication and loyalty, Dance Vision’s future still shines. Its two teams continue to train for local and national competitions, its parents and teachers continue to work together to raise hard-working and dedicated dancers that impress studios across the country and Sabetha continues to inspire her community’s youth to embrace the beauty of art.
“The biggest thing about being a business owner is being adaptable. Our clients were just so grateful because everything else just dropped. We were not willing to just drop, we were going to find a way to make it happen even though it wasn’t easy,” Sabetha, who was named Iowa's 2020 SBA Small Business Person of the Year, said. “We are so grateful that we have an amazing community and incredible clients that stuck with us.”